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Leander Club Lunch 2024

Group of people wearing rowing blazersLeander Club, standing majestically on the banks of the Thames at Henley, was once more the venue for a gathering of Old and current members of the Boat Club on Sunday 9th June. A large contingent of student rowers had made the trip from Oxford and looked resplendent in blazers and colourful attire. Old members and their guests were there to greet them in the Dining Room looking out over the gently flowing river.

On this occasion the weather was not warm enough to encourage sitting out on the riverside decking, but the oars hanging on the walls, bearing the details of ancient and also more recent victories and the heroes and heroines who had achieved them, and the glittering trophies in the display cabinets, were an ideal backdrop for catching up on news and swapping stories of boating events past and present.

Two fours and two sculling boats had been brought from Oxford earlier in the morning. Thanks to the hospitality of Henley Rowing Club, two ladies’ crews and the scullers had been able to get in a useful outing over the Henley course before lunch. This was in preparation for Women’s Henley, just two weeks away.

Richard Powles welcomed everybody to Leander and expressed particular gratitude to the Old members who had supported and financed the occasion. There had been concern at the lack of committed numbers until a late stage, but Old members had responded magnificently to a cry for help by turning up and also in many instances by sending good wishes and donations if unable to be present. This had enabled the event to proceed and also for the tradition to be respected of the student members of the Club to attend as the guests of the Old.

Thanks to some impressive crowd control and direction from Richard Powles a wholesale reorganisation of the seating plan was achieved with relative ease when it came to the pudding course. This was to facilitate the inter-generational exchange which is one of the aims of the lunch, although it did leave the Leander waiting staff a bit bemused.

Lenka Hozzova, the Women’s Captain, gave a lively report of the year’s highlights. Flooding severely curtailed boat training in the Hilary Term, and sadly also caused the cancellation of Torpids. The ladies were however subsequently able to compete with success at the Fairbanks Races in Cambridge and also at the Bedford and Oriel Regattas. Also, whilst Torpids on the isis had been cancelled the ladies participated in a Torpids “Tug of War” reaching the semi-finals. In Summer Eights WI started and finished 3rd on the River, and in between made a bump and rowed over on two successive days in 2nd position.  Crews remain in training to take part in Womens’ Henley, and in Reading and Llandaff Regattas.

Paolo Cicuta, the Men’s Captain, reported that in spite of the flooding problems, training had been pursued enthusiastically. The men’s crews had performed well at Llandaff, the Bedford Small Boats Head, and at Bedford Regatta where M1 were top of the Tier 3 Open VIIIs. In Summer Eights they achieved notable success by making three bumps to rise from 9th to 6th position on the River. Their sights were now set on qualifying for entry to Henley Royal Regatta.

Professor Michael Collins, who along with Andrew Gregory our Chaplain, is a Senior Member for the Club with the Governing Body, recalled some events of rowing history, and noted that the Boat Club, of all the Sports Clubs and Societies in the College, seemed to maintain the closest contact with its Old members. He also said that thought was already being given as to how the bicentenary of the Club in two years’ time might be marked, and, now that W1 and M! both had elevated positions on the River, suggested a challenge of achieving a Double Headship.

Ron Jordan thanked all in the Development and Alumni Office for all that they did for the College, and for all the help they had given for the organisation of the lunch. In particular he asked Grace Lane of the Development Office, who was present, to thank Clarissa Hennington, the Events Officer, without whose hard work the event would not have taken place at all. He also expressed the thanks of all present to Leander Club and its staff for the excellent fare and warm welcome.

In proposing a toast to the Club Ron called for applause for the Club’s coaches – Jonathan Cheesman, Argyris Stasinakis, and Pippa Biggs- who had guided our crews to reach very high standards, with most of our rowers taking up the sport for the first time whilst at Univ. He also said that Old members were delighted to see the Club really thriving, and he felt that the wonderful spirit of fun and friendship, which had always been a feature of Univ rowing, would remain the Club’s enduring core tradition.

Ron Jordan (1963, History)

Published: 5 July 2024

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